Paris refuses to withdraw its troops from Niger
France has insisted on fulfilling five military cooperation agreements with Niger, because the accords were signed with the West African state’s ‘legitimate authorities,’ despite the former colony’s newly installed junta calling for the deals to be revoked.
“France recalls that the legal framework for its cooperation with Niger in the area of defense is based on agreements that have been concluded with the legitimate Niger authorities,” read a Friday statement from the French foreign ministry. “These are the only ones that France, and the entire international community, recognizes.”
The statement follows a Thursday declaration from Amadou Abdramane, spokesperson for the military coup leaders who ousted Niger’s democratically elected president Mohammad Bazoum last week, that the junta was unilaterally severing the military agreements with its former colonial rulers.
Abdourahamane Tchiani, formerly the chief of Niger’s presidential guard, declared himself head of the transitional government two days after his forces overthrew Bazoum’s administration.
The cessation of the military accords would require France to remove the 1,000 to 1,500 troops it has stationed in the African country. A small number of United States soldiers are also deployed in Niger, a territory viewed as geopolitically significant due to its rich mineral resources and borders with seven countries, including Libya, Chad and Nigeria.
Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, has been the recipient of around $500 million of US military aid since 2012 – the highest such figure of any country in the region. Following the coup last week, several of Niger’s western benefactors have suspended aid programs. Foreign assistance accounts for around half of Niger’s annual budget.
On Friday, the Netherlands became the latest western nation to back out of agreements made with Niger’s previous administration, saying in a statement that it did not wish to provide support to perpetrators of a coup. The Hague said that it would instead divert aid to Niger through humanitarian operations orchestrated by the United Nations, or other international organizations.
Paris, meanwhile, said on Thursday that it condemns “in the strongest possible terms” Niger’s suspension of French news organizations France 24 and RFI. In a statement posted on its foreign ministry’s website, it added that the junta’s move to restrict French media in the country represented “authoritarian repression.”
France’s foreign ministry added on Saturday that it will provide support to the West African bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to ensure the military coup will fail. Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna said the coup leaders had until Sunday to hand back power, otherwise the threat of an ECOWAS military intervention in Niger must be taken “very seriously.”